To sum up, there are five golden rules which I have found very helpful to me when playing an important match. I give them to you in the hope that they may prove equally valuable. Always remember that constant practice of these rules will make their pursuit natural in a match.
You have so often been told this, I know, and perhaps the familiar ring about the advice may evoke contempt. Yet unless this rule is implicitly obeyed you cannot expect much success at lawn tennis. Taking your eye off the ball is the secret of every mis-hit and mis-timed stroke. You must not be content merely to look at the ball, but follow it right on to your racket; watch it up to the actual moment of striking. The court and the position of your opponent must be mentally engraved at the same time. How frequently attentive observation will reveal a player lifting his or her eye from the ball a fraction too soon! Always be on your guard against this inclination. It is at first done almost unconsciously, but it soon becomes a habit.
This is a most important rule. As I have remarked before, complete concentration is absolutely necessary to success. If you are worried about anything, business or home affairs, it is bound to affect your game. Think of absolutely nothing but the game you are at the moment playing. Your whole personality must be absorbed. To play the game well demands the use not only of limb and muscle, but heart, eye, and brain. The first rule will help the second, because your attention must be more or less fixed on the game if you are carefully watching the ball the whole time.
This rule some players will find much more difficult than others. You hear of a person having the right temperament for games, of being naturally imperturbable. It is a priceless quality, for to my mind it is half the battle if nothing can disturb your equanimity. To be calm and placid at critical moments, never to get excited or flurried, or in any way put out, whatever little worries may turn up—and sometimes these worries seem endless and try one to the uttermost limit—that is one of the keys to fame on court. I think if a good games’ temperament is not natural to you, it can to a great extent be cultivated. But it requires much practice and an abundance of will-power and self-control. It is a very important quality to possess, because to lose your temper, or to be upset over any trifle, not only puts you off your game, but helps your opponent to take a new lease of life and encourages her to play up harder than ever. She naturally thinks that if you are so upset at something or other your game is bound to deteriorate, and she will have a much better chance of winning the match.